Doniford Bay yields some superb white ammonites, which can be found in the rocks on the foreshore. There are also a number of well-preserved brachiopods and bivalves.
♦ The car park at Doniford Bay can easily be missed. From Watchet, follow the road out of town towards Quantoxhead.
♦ Just before the junction onto the main road, a very small road cutting through bushes can be seen. This takes you to the car park at Doniford Bay and a path leads directly onto the beach.
♦ Ref: 51.17991, 3.30857; Grid Ref. ST076 434
FIND FREQUENCY: ♦♦♦ – The foreshore at Doniford Bay can be very productive and the best time to collect is during scouring conditions.
CHILDREN: ♦♦♦♦ – Doniford Bay is suitable for family trips.
ACCESS: ♦♦ – A car park at Doniford Bay takes you directly onto the beach. The problem is that it is very hard to find and is hidden behind bushes. You are likely to pass it without even noticing it.
TYPE: – Doniford Bay is a foreshore location. The vast majority of fossils are found in the rocks and shale on the foreshore and are best exposed during scouring tides.
A wide variety of ammonites can be found at Doniford Bay. The most common are the Arnioceras. These are fairly small ammonites packed into the Doniford Shale. Other ammonites can be found at low tide, north of the Watchet fault. In particular, Psiloceras can be found and are very well preserved. There are a range of other ammonites to be found by collecting from around the point of Doniford Bay, but they are less common here. Many shells also can be collected.
Look for blocks on the beach, as the ammonites are clearly visible. The rock is fairly easy to split and, if you break one ammonite, there are usually many more in the same block. Some of these ammonites are distorted. Blocks can be found from near the blocks of stone protecting the cliff from the sea. They are in a horizontal layer on the foreshore. Blocks packed with the white ammonites can also be found on the foreshore. These have so many ammonites – positioned in various ways – that many will split incorrectly. However, because the rocks are so full of ammonites, at least some will split in the correct way.
The rocks at Doniford Bay consist of Lower Lias and Triassic beds. The red and green striped rocks, which can be seen at the east of the bay, are Mercia Mudstones. The grey Helwell Marls can be seen to the west.
The Jurassic Lias at Doniford Bay is the youngest of the Lias beds in Somerset and marks the uppermost beds of the Lower Lias. Horizons of Doniford Shales can also be located and, at low tide near the Watchet Fault, the Aldergrove beds can be seen. The Pleistocene deposits seen in the photo above are not precisely dated. Many years ago, there were reports of mammoth and other bones. However, nothing has been seen for decades and, unfortunately, the best exposures have now been covered up.
Common sense when collecting at all locations should be used and knowledge of tide times is essential. You can easily be cut off by the tide as the sea always reaches parts of the cliff. Be careful of falling rocks, as the cliffs are quite high and liable to fall.
The fossils at Doniford Bay are found on the foreshore. Sometimes, this area can be very productive, especially during scouring, but often the location can bring disappointment with the beds covered by sand.
This site is an SSSI. This means you can visit the site, but hammering the bedrock is not permitted. For full information about the reasons for the status of the site and restrictions please download the PDF from Natural England – SSSI Information